This is a question I have been asked so many times being a personal trainer.

In order to be a good personal trainer I need to make sure that the advice I give my client’s is as accurate, effective and up to date as possible. In my experience I get nearly as many questions from my client’s about nutrition as I do exercise.

Many of the articles I write are about nutrition. One of the reasons this is, is due to the fact that so many people are confused by it. Sources of good as well as bad nutrition advice can come from the TV, magazines, books, internet, pretty much everywhere. Its all so confusing! For every opinion is a contrasting one in many cases, I guarantee that you could find 1000s of results if you type into Google, actually I just tested it and its 26,100,100 results for fruit and vegetables are bad for you!

I do agree that nutrition is a difficult and complicated subject but if you just want to be healthy and lose a bit of weight then just stick to the basic rules. Many people believe that the best way to lose weight is to starve yourself, I am not talking about well timed and educated intermittent fasting I am talking about eating next to nothing in order to limit your calorie intake and ultimately lose weight.

What people forget when they adopt this strategy is how much the body needs good food and nutrition in order to function properly. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals all have absolutely vital functions in determining how the body works.

Skipping breakfast is quite a popular one, I will say right now, don’t! Breakfast is a crucial part of our day. It effectively breaks the overnight fast. So if you skip breakfast then your body will go around 16 hours without food. Many people rightly say that breakfast is up there with the most important meals of the day, it is very important to get the right foods into your body to kick start your day. How many of you feel sluggish for hours after missing breakfast?

So how effective is starving yourself for weight loss?

At first it will probably work very well. The body will use the nutrients it needs from your body fat as it is not getting the nutrients in the form of calories consumed. Soon though your body will start to use the nutrients from our muscles which we need for everyday functions.

Your body is a clever thing and will click on to your diet/starvation method and lower your metabolism. This happens because your body is preparing itself and protecting its fat resources for survival. This will mean that your body needs fewer calories to cope. So the longer you adopt this strategy the less effective it becomes.

When your body prepares itself for starvation it becomes more stressed. This leads to a chemical called cortisol being released, too much cortisol eventually leads to the body storing excess fat in order to survive (because you are making your body think it’s starving). This process actually leads to weight gain for a period! You can become “skinny fat” when you are lighter but as a result of muscle loss not fat loss.

More negatives associated with long term starvation weight loss strategies.

I would say depression is one. Most people will diet sporadically and try to starve themselves because they have a weight loss problem, the likelihood is that people who do this will enjoy the so called ‘naughty’ foods e.g. pizza, ice cream, chocolate etc. So from going from that to nothing will induce very negative feelings and emotions.

Most of the time these feelings will get the better of the person who will quickly go back to their old ways as the cravings get too much, no prizes for guessing what happens now. Weight straight back on, unhappiness levels will be high.

Risk of illness. Your body is being starved of the bacteria fighting nutrients which mean that your body is much more likely to pick up bugs and illnesses. The food deficiency can also lead to the body’s immune system lowering.

It may be a good quick fix but if you are thinking of long term health and happiness this is definitely the wrong way to go about it. You will be weak and sluggish which will have a detrimental effect on your life.

Metabolism is crucial in weight loss; a fast metabolism will mean you are much more likely to lose weight. So any weight loss strategies which will slow down our metabolism are not a great idea. Eating is the best way to get your metabolism going!

So as I have mentioned, if you are trying to lose weight, start with a period of detox to flush out the toxins and get your body working the way it should be, stick to a healthy nutrition program, get a great exercise program and you will do great! Eat smaller meals throughout the day (3 meals, and 1 or two snacks) and try to avoid eating too much before bed.

Should you starve yourself to lose weight?

Only if you have done a full detox first and you are following a structured fasting plan. You should not just randomly and sporadically cut back as it will make you ill and weak in the long-term.

Thanks for reading,

Richard Clarke

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